Not long after the assassination of her husband, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy invited acclaimed political journalist and historian Theodore White to the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts to discuss the 35th U.S. president's legacy. The interview resulted in a Life Magazine essay that famously, at the suggestion of the first lady, drew a parallel between the late president and King Arthur of Camelot.
Director Pablo Larrain's captivating Jackie - one of the year's finest motion pictures, if perhaps not the best - utilizes this conversation as a means to delve into the psyche of the first lady (Natalie Portman, in a dead-on, tour-de-force turn that somehow manages to outdo her Oscar-winning Black Swan performance), before, during and following the tragic events of November 22, 1963.
We watch as Kennedy films her immensely successful A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy television special and are treated to select few, rich moments of the glory days of the Kennedy presidency, when the White House was filled with grand entertainment and joy. Then, of course, there are the horrors of that fall day in Dallas, Texas, the gruesomeness of the assassination itself and the whirlwind nature of the events to follow for the first lady, from Lyndon B. Johnson's abrupt swearing-in to the presidency to the countless and complex arrangements Kennedy needed to make over the days to follow. There are powerful scenes between the first lady and the grieving Robert F. Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard), her longtime friend and assistant Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) and the warm and enlightening Father Richard McSorley (John Hurt).
While there are a number of impressive, convincing performances to be found throughout Jackie - beyond those mentioned, John Carroll Lynch (as LBJ), Beth Grant (as Lady Bird Johnson) and Billy Crudup (as White) are also memorable - this is of course largely still a one-woman show, and Portman completely nails it. Not a false note is struck as Portman goes through a plethora of emotions, and she's greatly supported by Larrain's brilliant, often Kubrick-like direction and a marvelous screenplay by Noah Oppenheim.
Jackie is a true sight to behold, and to listen to, for that matter. The look and feel of the time is captured beautifully by costume designer Madeline Fontaine, cinematographer Stephane Fontaine and production designer Jean Rabasse. Mica Levi's dazzling, often overwhelming original score is surely one of the year's best.
Natalie, go get that Oscar #2!